Fine Art

Stacy Nick / KUNC

Artist Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione was not a nice guy. He threatened to push his own sister off of a roof. He beat up a man over an apartment. There were even murder accusations.

"He was horrible," concurred Denver Art Museum curator Timothy Standring. "We're dealing with the Sopranos of the 17th century."

Yet, his artwork – which includes a mix of paintings, drawings and prints – is sublime, Standring said, which is why he's been researching Castiglione for the past 44 years.

Stacy Nick / KUNC

The National Sculptors’ Guild Sculpture Garden is meant to showcase how the outdoors can be an ideal place for art. Executive Director John Kinkade said the garden is purposefully kept fairly natural to encourage wildlife. On that count it is perhaps too successful, at least one busy beaver has made itself at home.

“I think they must be art appreciators,” Kinkade said. “Because so far they’ve avoided all the sculptures. They’re felling these trees so that they do not hit sculptures.”

Maybe not the friendliest of art critics though, right?

Denver School Of Botanical Art and Illustration

A sprig of dried rose hips sits atop Nels Broste's drafting table, in a classroom inside the Denver Botanic Gardens. Broste has drawn an outline on the paper in front of him, and flips back and forth between sheets of tracing paper as he tries to perfect his composition.

Connie Sayas, his instructor, walks up with some encouragement and a few tips.

"So what I like is these interesting shapes, so if this was your paper, we've got this nice jagged edge here," said Sayas.

"I also like the balance between the different textures, so we know that these rose hips are crinkled up, it will be a really nice contrast. So you want to push those textures."

Broste is not an artist by training -- he's a retired engineer -- but his sketch is spot on. He recently earned a certificate from the Denver Botanic Gardens School of Botanical Art and Illustration. He's taking this extra class, "for the fun of it."

Corita Kent's silkscreens were once compared to Andy Warhol's; her banners and posters were featured at civil rights and anti-war rallies in the 1960s and '70s; she made the covers of Newsweek and The Saturday Evening Post; and she even created a popular postage stamp. Yet today, Kent seems to have fallen through the cracks of art history.

Eric Bransby is one of the last living links to the great age of American mural painting. He studied with one of this country's most famous muralists — Thomas Hart Benton — and went on to create his own murals in prominent buildings across the west. The artist is now 98 and still painting.

Janine Trudell / RMPBS

Fans of '80s rock know him as the front man of DEVO. Movie buffs know his soundtrack contributions to The Royal Tenenbaums and Moonrise Kingdom. Now the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver has something from Mark Mothersbaugh few have – his visual art.

Myopia is the first comprehensive presentation of Mothersbaugh's widely-heard music alongside his little-known art. The retrospective's title comes from Mothersbaugh's own condition, a diagnosis of nearsightedness he got in second grade.

Baghdad, Iraq, Nov. 2008
Ted Engelmann, Vietnam Veteran

Wayne Williams and Adam Nilson are war Veterans. Even on United States soil, there are days when they feel far from at home. By creating art, they have found an unlikely way to settle in. They think it can help others too.

Stephanie Paige Ogburn / KUNC

Rows of clear plastic containers, stuffed full of brightly colored yarns, line the wall in Ben Leroux's Denver studio, a rainbow of color stretching the length of the room and reaching from the floor to the ceiling.

"We try to organize it by color, but as you can see we're not very good at it," said Leroux.

This yarn wall is a key part of Leroux's business. The soft-spoken craftsman is one of just a handful of artisans expert in the art of restoring Navajo weavings.

Carrie Saldo, Arts District

Judy Chicago has long trumpeted the significant achievements of her gender. Often regarded as the mother of the feminist art movement, she – at 75 – is far more interested in work she's yet to conceive than her past labors.

"I've had a real battle," Chicago said reflecting on her career. "I've had reviews that are so awful the earth is supposed to open up and you are supposed to get into it, dig yourself underneath the ground, and never appear again."

That she refused to bury herself and continues to create new work inspired Denver's Red Line gallery to take a different approach to celebrating Chicago's career, five-decades in the making.

Imagine if you could see the pen Beethoven used to write his Symphony No. 5. Or the chisel Michelangelo used to sculpt his David. Art lovers find endless fascination in the materials of artists — a pen, a brush, even a rag can become sacred objects, humanizing a work of art.